Designers have been pimping up pearls for many years now and the connotations of twinsets and grandmas are long forgotten. Pearls have evolved into a sexy status symbol, with designers slicing and dicing them, or pairing the gem with neon enamel and spiked gold. Celebrities are also popularizing them – Beyoncé wore a custom-made pearl embellished body suit for her Renaissance tour this summer, while the 2023 Met Gala saw the likes of Kim Kardashian, Lizzo, Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, Cardi B and Serena Williams appear in swathes of pearls on the red carpet in an ode to Karl Lagerfeld. Of course, most of us won’t be rushing out to buy a mesh-and-pearl evening gown any time soon, but one thing we can all wear is a chic pair of pearl earrings. Cue our edit of the classic and contemporary styles to covet this season…
Classic drop earrings
“If you’re going to invest in just one pair of pearl earrings, then a short, drop style is the most versatile choice,” says Emily Johnston, acting jewelry buyer at NET-A-PORTER. “They will work with any neckline, aren’t ‘too much’ for office attire, yet, when paired with eveningwear, they add a delicate, polished detail that will let your outfit do the talking.” Mikimoto’s ‘Final Flourish’ design looks fashion-forward with its chain-link drops, while Mizuki’s slightly shorter style features diamonds within a sleek bezel setting that feels ultra-modern. For a classic drop earring – especially those looking for a bridal feel – Pippa Small’s pearl earrings are timeless.
Gray and black pearls
“A classic string of white orbs is probably where your mind goes first when you think of pearls,” says Johnston. “They actually come in a whole range of nuanced shades, from delicate pinks and yellows through to lavender, gray and black.” With black gems, in general, trending this season, it’s no surprise that darker hued pearls are also proving popular. Sophie Buhai’s drop earrings feature silver-gray Tahitian pearls with incredible natural luster, while Melissa Joy Manning’s miniature gray pearl studs are a chic choice for everyday wear. If you’re seeking a pair for after-dark dressing, look to Pomellato’s ‘Sabbia’ earrings, featuring a modern cluster of cognac diamonds and smoke-gray pearls.
In a traditional pearl necklace or pair of stud earrings, round orbs tend to be the obvious choice, but baroque pearls allow you to wear the trend in a slightly less prim and proper way. Mateo’s ‘Buttercup’ design is a striking style complement eveningwear, with a sleek sequence of round diamonds leading the way to baroque pearl drops, while Jennifer Behr’s short drop styles are more suited to every day. “Baroque pearls feel a little more bohemian; if you tend to stack unusual gemstones and strings of beads, then baroque pearls will easily slip into the mix,” says Johnston. Meanwhile, pastel junkies will love Completedworks’ saccharine pair, crafted in a perfect candy-floss pink, featuring blush baroque pearls and pink resin to bring an asymmetric feel.
Pearl studs make a refreshing change from diamonds, and if you have multiple piercings, they can be layered up the ear to include huggies and cuffs, too. “Mikimoto is the master of classic pearl jewelry,” says Johnston. “Its lustrous Akoya pearls are ultra-precious, and the stud earrings are a perfect investment piece – they’re always elegant, and can be passed down the generations.” Meanwhile, Éera’s double-pearl stud earrings offer a flash of neon pink for a touch of modern maximalism, and Sophie Bille Brahe’s ‘Petite Jeanne’ is a single-earring style with a neo-vintage feel, thanks to its miniature halo. Jennifer Meyer’s floral studs will bring a touch of romanticism to any ear stack, while Mizuki’s pearl pair are given a little extra scintillation with two trailing rows of dainty diamonds.
Swirls and whirls
“Pearls are now more fun than ever before because contemporary designers are eschewing traditional lines and drop designs in favor of swirling, whirling curls, and hoops and loops that add a fun twist for party season,” says Johnston. Pearl Octopuss.y has created a frenzied flurry of pearls with its ‘White Lotus’ design, while the cult queen of contemporary pearl designs – Copenhagen-based designer Sophie Bille Brahe – offers nonchalant loops that cascade from the lobe.
“If you’re a hoop-earring addict, then it’s time to add a pearl design into your repertoire,” says Johnston. Available in a range of sizes, oversized hoops such as Mateo’s ‘Large Dot’ designs will make maximum impact, while Stone and Strand’s 14-karat gold pair are a middling and minimalist choice. For huggie hoops, turn to pro-piercer Maria Tash or Mateo, where delicate details add a little extra shine.